Farmers put nature to work to the benefit of human vitality, and their commitment to safeguarding the quality of the land, water and air is evident on Earth Day (April 22, 2012 ) and every day. A timely example, according to the Iowa Soybean Association is the growth in the production and use of biodiesel, a renewable fuel made from soybean co-products.
The Iowa Department of Revenue reports that the amount of pure biodiesel (B100) sold by fuel retailers in Iowa last year nearly doubled from 7.4 million gallons in 2010 to 13.9 million in 2011. Biodiesel blends comprised about 42% of all on-road diesel sold at the retail level in the state.
Iowa is home to 13 biodiesel plants. In 2011, the state produced about 175 million gallons of biodiesel, an impressive 17 percent of the nation's total production.
Advancements in farming methods have resulted in soy biodiesel having the best energy balance of commonly available fuels. It takes just one unit of energy to make 5.5 units of energy in the form of soy biodiesel. Conversely, one unit of energy is required to refine and transport just 0.8 units of petroleum fuel.
Biodiesel is just one example of continual improvement farmers are making
Biodiesel is just one example of the continuous improvement soybean farmers are making to safeguard environmental quality while advancing an economically viable agricultural production system.
"Sustainability is defined by continually improving production systems that will over the long-term satisfy human food, fiber and fuel needs," says Roger Wolf, ISA's director of Environmental Programs and Services. "It is also about enhancing environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends and improving the economic viability of farm operations and overall quality of life for farmers and society as a whole."
The world population is currently 7 billion and is expected to surpass 9 billion by 2050. If this growth coincides with an increase in personal income, the United Nations predicts that agricultural output must double to satisfy stronger demand for more dairy, fruit and meat and plant protein.
Farmers play major role in balancing needs of nature with needs of consumers
Soybean farmers play a leading role in balancing the needs of nature with those of consumers. From 1987 to 2008, improved soybean productivity resulted in 26 percent less land used per bushel. At the same time, more sustainable farming practices have enabled energy use per bushel of soybean produced to decrease by 61 percent.
In addition, soybean farmers have:
Decreased soil loss by 1.17 tons per acre, or 37%, from 1978-2008;
Decreased soil loss per bushel during that same time by 46% due largely to a dramatic increase in conservation tillage;
Reduced carbon emissions 22.13 pounds per acre, or 24%, and emissions per bushel by 35 percent over the study period; and
Reduced overall carbon emissions by an average of 104.23 million pounds each year since 2000. That would be the equivalent of removing more than 31,000 cars from the road each year.
These accomplishments, says ISA president Dean Coleman, motivate farmers to do even more. "When we see progress, we're driven to do even more," says the farmer from Humboldt. "Conserving soil and protecting and improving water quality are foundational to maintaining healthy families, communities and economies. Environmental stewardship is a role I take seriously, on Earth Day and every day."
To learn more about ISA, visit its website at www.iasoybeans.com.The Iowa Soybean Association develops policies and programs that help farmers expand profit opportunities while promoting environmentally sensitive production using the soybean checkoff and other resources. The Association is made up of 10,000 farmer members and is governed by an elected volunteer board of 21 farmers.